If you’re buying a guitar for a child (or if you just need a smaller travel guitar), it can be difficult to choose the right one. In our Yamaha JR1 acoustic guitar review, we’ll be taking a look at Yamaha’s JR1, a 3/4 size dreadnaught that strikes a great balance between playability and affordability. Is it the best acoustic guitar for kids? let’s find out…
Things to Consider Before Buying a Kids Acoustic Guitar
The right guitar can help cultivate a child’s love of music, but a poorly-made guitar can discourage them.
Most younger children can’t comfortably play a full-size guitar, but there are plenty of options. The Yamaha JR1 acoustic guitar is a 3/4 size guitar, which is ideal for children ages 9-12 (If you’re buying for a younger child, a 1/4 or 1/2 size guitar may be a better choice.). A 3/4 size guitar is much more manageable for a child to handle, but it’s close enough to a full-size guitar to have a full, rich sound.
Look at build quality
It’s no secret that guitars made for children are often inexpensive. After all, many children give up the hobby, and parents don’t want to be out a substantial sum of money. However, it’s still possible to find well-built guitars that don’t cost a fortune. The JR1 is an especially well-built guitar — while it doesn’t have a solid top, it’s one of the best-sounding guitars for children we’ve found.
Even for an adult, a poorly set-up guitar can be extraordinarily difficult to play. But for a child new to guitar, a guitar that’s not playable can be discouraging. Luckily, the JR1 doesn’t have any sharp frets, and the slim neck profile makes it easy to play even for players with small hands. However, to ensure maximum playability, you may want to invest in a professional setup.
Overview of the Yamaha JR1
The Yamaha JR1 is a great beginner guitar for a child. This small dreadnaught is a 3/4 size, and the shorter scale is easier for children to handle. It has a spruce top and meranti back and sides – a combination that strikes a balance between tone, durability, and cost-effectiveness. But before we get too deep into our Yamaha JR1 acoustic guitar review, let’s look at some pros and cons:
Neck & Body
Yamaha calls the body of the JR1 a “compact traditional western,” which is essentially a small dreadnaught. The top is made of spruce — a classic tonewood choice for acoustic guitars. The back and sides of the JR1 are made of meranti, an inexpensive wood that tends to be chosen for its strength rather than its tonal quality. The neck made of nato, another inexpensive yet strong wood.
While the build quality does leave something to be desired, it keeps the guitar lightweight and strong.
While most buyers look at tonewoods first, the other components of a guitar are also central to its sound and playability. The fretboard and bridge of the JR1 are made of rosewood, a high-quality wood that’s especially comfortable when used as a fretboard. Rosewood is also a beautiful wood, and it helps make the JR1 especially eye-catching.
The tuning machines are open chrome and made by Yamaha. Like most tuners on inexpensive guitars, these don’t hold tune especially well. However, they work well enough to make this a decent guitar for beginners.
The nut and saddle are made of urea, which is a plastic composite. It’s dense enough to sound decent, although you can always upgrade to Tusq or bone.
We think this guitar has great components for the price.
Sound and Tone
While the JR1 doesn’t quite have the depth and nuance that a full-size dreadnaught has, it doesn’t sound bad considering its build quality. It projects incredibly well, which makes it a good choice for blues. Its mellow tone makes it nice for folk music or fingerpicking, too.
Tonally, you get chiming highs and a pronounced midrange. The bass response is a little muted, but that’s to be expected with a smaller dreadnaught. That said, for a smaller laminate-topped guitar, the JR1 has surprising sustain.
For a kids’ guitar, this one has pretty impressive sound.
Action, Fit and Finish
Most guitarists don’t expect much when it comes to the action on a children’s guitar. However, the JR1 is a pleasant surprise. The action on this guitar is low enough that you don’t need to exert much force to press on each string. If you want to make it even more comfortable to play, you can always restring it.
If you buy a guitar fresh from the factory, the action may not be quite where you want it to be. If you want to get the most out of the JR1 in terms of tone, it may be worth investing in a professional setup and intonation.
Fit and finish wise, this guitar outshines most similar models. Even on its less-expensive guitars, Yamaha seems to have decent quality control – frets aren’t sharp, there aren’t runs in the finish, and there aren’t any assembly issues. The JR1 has a gloss finish, which is typical – a gloss neck can feel “sticky” and make it harder to play quickly. However, this shouldn’t be an issue for new players.
The JR1 is a very nice-looking beginner guitar, too — the tortoiseshell pickguard, simple dot fretboard inlays, and black-lined rosette give it the look of a classic acoustic guitar.
We think that this is one of the more playable beginner guitars out there.
Reliability & Durability
When buying a guitar for a child, durability is of prime importance. The JR1 is an all-laminate guitar, which makes it more durable than solid-top or all-solid acoustic guitars. This means it’s likely to be able to withstand being knocked around a bit. However, laminate guitars don’t have the same full sound as all-solid guitars.
As we mentioned earlier, the JR1 is well-appointed for the price, and you aren’t likely to experience issues with any of its components. It’s worth mentioning that, unlike some children’s guitars, this one has a truss rod. If any action issues or fret buzz problems arise, you’ll likely be able to fix them with a quick adjustment.
This is a great candidate for the best acoustic guitar for kids.
Like most Yamaha guitars, this one offers excellent value for the price. This is especially true when comparing it to similarly-priced guitars from other manufacturers like Gibson or Fender.
Ultimately, with the JR1, you get a guitar that sounds good enough (and holds tune well enough) to learn on. It’s also very comfortable to play, which is crucial when you’re new to guitar. Considering the price, we think it offers great value.
We think this guitar offers plenty of value for the price.